Pneumatics breathes new life into old books

Nov. 22, 2006
Versatile machine binds books on demand.

Edited by Kenneth Korane

Festo's DFM cylinder provides high clamping forces and stability needed to secure books as they're bound. Flow controls and quick-exhaust valves ensure high-speed actuation.

CPV-18 valve manifolds house fieldbus nodes and the valves that extend and retract cylinders.

The Ultrabind Plus is a versatile machine for on-demand and short-edition binding. The automatic, self-adjusting machine requires no operator setup and binds books of varying sizes and thicknesses.

Web sites, blogs, E-books, and other digital media have some pundits predicting the imminent demise of the printed word. But the fact is, digital technology may lead to more books than ever in print.

That's due to the rise of on-demand printing. Traditionally, old, out-of print books didn't offer sufficient sales potential to warrant offset printing in volume, and offset costs were too high to justify limited runs. "Short runs through high-speed equipment is not cost effective because setup can take a couple hours, even though the run time for a thousand copies may only be 10 minutes," says Jack Bendror, president of Mekatronics Inc., Port Washington, N.Y. "It has reached the point where hundreds of thousands of books are now out of print," he explains.

"But, the revolution in digital printing makes short runs, and even single copies, economically feasible," says Bendror. With this technology, technicians scan an original copy of an old book to create a digital version, from which digital presses print and collate pages ready for hardcover binding.

Generating one-off versions of books instantly created a demand for equipment that quickly and economically binds varying quantities and sizes of books. But the machines had to use durable materials and ensure high-quality workmanship to meet stringent library standards, where books must withstand heavy circulation and repeated photocopying.

Mekatronics pioneered book-rebinding technology in the 1950s and recently introduced Ultrabind Plus, a versatile machine for on-demand and short-edition binding. The automatic, self-adjusting machine requires no operator setup and binds books of different sizes, thicknesses, and types of paper. It processes unbound books as thin as 0.25 in. to as thick as 3.25 in., with heights ranging to 15.5 in.

An operator loads books into the machine, where they're sensed, securely clamped, and transported though a series of processing stations. For example, tools mill and cut notches into the spine to increase surface area for adhesive binding. Then a double-fan gluing station applies polyvinyl-acetate adhesive between pages. This involves fanning the spine in one direction, then the other, gluing each sheet on both sides to ensure strength and durability.

The book moves to a notch-filling station where pages are clamped together and a roller presses glue onto the spine. Next, back-lining material is coated with glue, applied to the spine, and cut to length. Finally, the machine folds and presses the back liner against end sheets on the front and back of the book. The finished, bound book drops down a chute or can be manually removed from the clamp.

Virtually every process relies on pneumatic actuators and electropneumatic controls from Festo Corp., Hauppauge, N.Y. Pneumatics was ideal for this machine for several reasons. "For one, pneumatics is a great medium for clamping books as they move from station to station. It provides high forces without the risk of leakage, as with hydraulics," says Bendror.

Pneumatic actuators are also extremely fast acting, which speeds throughput, and they're rugged and durable, adds Ion Azzola, manager of Festo's Business Engineering Group. Compared with other motion-control technologies, pneumatics also offers the lowest costs, he says.

A Festo PS1 industrial PC controls all operations. The controller features a modular design that lets users add features and capacity as required, from simple analog I/O to servo and stepper controllers.

Another important feature of the machine is a proprietary Festo fieldbus compatible with the industrial PC. "Fieldbus is used because discrete I/O is distributed throughout the machine," says Azzola. "It's easier to collect them, so to speak, in a junction box — valve terminals that provide local distribution of the I/O points. So instead of wiring everything to the main control box, we wire only to terminals mounted near sensors and cylinders. Then, via a two-wire cable, communicate with the fieldbus interface card in the control rack."

The company's CPV-18 valve manifolds house the fieldbus nodes and 5/2 valves that extend and retract cylinders. Hard-wiring all the sensors and valves, while possible, would have been cost prohibitive. "Fieldbus offers substantial cost, time, and material savings," says Azzola.

Because Festo offers an extremely broad range of actuators, Mekatronics could specify every cylinder according to each station's force, stroke, and mounting requirements, adds Azzola.

Position feedback on the actuators confirms extension and retraction, ensures proper sequencing, and prevents collisions. And because the controller always knows cylinder position, it can quickly recognize and pinpoint any fault.

The machine brings precision and consistency to what was once a manual process and eliminates the possibility of debilitating wrist injuries, such as carpal-tunnel syndrome, from repetitive hand binding. And binding quality no longer depends on operator skill.

Numerous safety features are built in to meet international standards, including soft-start pneumatics, light curtains, electrically interlocked hoods, and motors with electronic brakes. The machine measures about 164 80 56 in. and weighs approximately 5,000lb.

Festo Corp.,
Mekatronics Inc.,

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